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Cheryl Kozak '88 Adding Value to Life, Career at Travelers

By Kenneth Stratton '19 MONDAY, JUNE 3, 2019 - 12:00 PM WNE100
  • Through coursework, Cheryl Kozak '88 helped bring the Golden Bear to campus

With Travelers now for over twenty years, Cheryl Kozak ’88 says she is at a point in her career where she’s focused on working with great people, doing work that she loves, and adding a sense of value to life.

“It’s being part of a team where I’m continuously learning and involved in shaping the strategy that will help us achieve our goals.” said Kozak, Vice President of Human Resources (HR).

Kozak decided to attend Western New England only after her brother, Joseph Scollo ’85, convinced her to look at it. With just one interview during a visit to campus, the college search concluded abruptly when Kozak became convinced that Western New England was the right place for her.

On campus, Kozak was involved as a Manager of the Wrestling Team, a Peer Advisor for first year students, and did a work-study program with the College of Business. As a Business student she worked with Professors Henry Bazan, Peter Hess, Fanelli, Chelte, and others. During her tenure, she was involved with a great deal of projects with the professors and was able to participate in HR consulting work in the Springfield area, engaging with local businesses.

Bazan, remembered for spearheading the campaign to “bring the Golden Bear to campus” among other contributions, built the campaign into coursework Kozak found herself working on. She and other students were tasked with shaping the concept of the prototype for the famous statue that would come to campus in 1986.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I went to college,” Kozak said, but she found her interest piqued doing consulting work, which led to her work in HR. A field that was just developing as an academic discipline at WNE at the time, Kozak was in one of the first groups of students to tackle the HR major at Western New England.

Upon graduation, Kozak remembers jobs in the field being scarce, so she found work through a staffing firm which lasted her a year. After that, she joined Travelers, and has spent the majority of her professional career there, ever since. Today, she is the VP of HR for Business Insurance, but the reach of her work goes far beyond that.

“HR is a broad role, very much involved in helping shape business strategy and building the talent strategy to support the business in achieving its outcomes,” Kozak explained.

“The number one priority of any business is around talent,” Kozak said. “The business does not exist unless it has the right talent to do the work. We need to ensure we have the right programs to attract, recruit and develop our talent. Our focus is around ensuring our talent is always engaged by working on strategies that will give them a great employee experience,” she added.

In 2011, Kozak stepped away from Travelers to join Aspen Insurance US Services as Executive VP of HR in US Operations. It was an opportunity at a time in her life when she was looking to do something different. But soon she found her way back to the Travelers red umbrella, missing the company where she’d spent most of her adult life. Today, Kozak remains committed to helping Travelers carve out their path for the future.

“The company’s always thinking about the future… trying to figure out where they’re going and what that culture looks like,” Kozak said, adding that a company’s culture is vital to its success, and HR is integral in shaping that. She outlined how the work in her department helps achieve this:

One, resources and support must be aligned to accomplish any given goal. Two, even as the company transforms, it must remember its history and what’s made the company successful. Three, she understands that with unemployment low, it’s a competitive environment right now in attracting and retaining talent, so the company must always be finding ways to stay ahead of the curve. And these are just a few of the ways Kozak is helping Travelers move into the future.

For her, Kozak maintains the belief that her work at Travelers is about adding value; and not just to the company, but to her life as well. And she wouldn’t be able to do this if not for Western New England.

“My education at Western New England was a big part of the reason why I got into this line of work,” Kozak said. Thankful for the practical experience she gained, with projects such as developing the Golden Bear, she was able to implement what she learned into business practice and build a successful career at Travelers.